Here are the thoughts of Paul Cawthorne on reversing Brexit and joining the EU anew. Paul is an economist living on the Swiss – Italian border. He presents a logical incrementalism perspectives as a comparison to our ‘all or nothing‘ approach:
GOAL: full membership of the EU asap
We can all agree on this overriding objective but there are inevitable differences of opinion regarding the most appropriate strategy and tactics.
My personal viewpoint is that rejoining the single market is the essential first step needed before the ultimate objective of full EU membership can be achieved.
- Rejoining the single market would not require a referendum. Editor’s note : a referendum is not the only choice in any case. See London for Europe.
- Rejoining the single market would not require a lengthy application procedure under the Copenhagen Criteria.
- The UK’s current position as the only country in Western Europe outside the single market is economically unworkable and unsustainable.
- It would go a long way to resolving most, but not all, of the post-Brexit economic damage. Editor’s note : Brexit damage is also social, political, legal and environmental.
- It would be seen as a confidence building measure to convince the EU27 of the UK’s ultimate goal of EU membership.
- Once in the single market the UK’s unsatisfactory status as a “rule taker” (Norway/Swiss model) could be used to convince the electorate that we need to become a “rule maker”.
- Rejoining the single market is an essential stepping stone on the road to achieving the central objective.
Focusing on rejoining the single market in the short to medium term should in no way preclude campaigning for the central overriding objective.
Learn from the final failure of the PV campaign
It should not be forgotten that the PV campaign was very nearly successful. It ultimately failed for 3 main reasons:
- The decision of Corbyn and Swinson to fall into the trap of Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” December 2019 election.
- Problems of leadership at the top of the movement.
- Bad luck in timing: if COVID had come 3 months earlier or Johnson’s “oven ready deal” had not been agreed for at least another 3 months Brexit would have been delayed indefinitely.
Ultimately, whatever the weight of public opinion, the number of people who take part in marches and/or sign petitions, campaigns are won or lost in parliament. Most MPs likely to elected in 2024 will not have fixed, immovable positions on Brexit reversal but will need to be convinced that supporting rejoin is in their interests.
Learn from the success of Vote Leave
- Keeping the message simple and repeating it over and over again. “Brexit has failed”; “you were lied to”.
- Emphasising the positive impacts of rejoining as much as the negative effects of leaving.
- Playing the patriotic card: “Britain leading in Europe and the world”. Editor’s note: Our strapline below conveys this.
- Turning around the Leave slogans and narrative: “take back control in the heart of Europe”; “outside the EU we have lost control”; “the new will of the people”.
At least 70% of the electorate need to be convinced of 2 things:
- Rejoining the EU is an essential desirable objective
- Rejoining the EU is achievable
Focus on the future and not the past.
To spread the positive message, young people need to be given prominent leadership positions in the campaign.
Labour’s flawed Brexit policy
Labour’s current “Make Brexit Work” policy is seriously flawed and, at best, will have no positive or negative impacts on their immediate electoral prospects.
- Poor advice based on outdated (2019) focus groups and internal polling data.
- Overestimation of the enduring support for a hard Tory Brexit in the so-called Red Wall.
- Underestimation of the the impact of Brexit’s evident failure on public opinion.
- Underestimation of the impact of demographic changes on the electorate.
- Overblown fear of the reaction of Tory tabloids to any perceived watering down of Brexit.
- Misplaced belief that “Make Brexit Work” will be a convincing winning 3-word slogan in 2024.
- Nostalgic belief that Labour is still essentially a “working class” party and needs to prioritise at all costs the views and prejudices of these traditional “core supporters”.
Labour’s flawed position needs to be abandoned. Labour politicians parroting “Make Brexit Work” and “no case for rejoining the SM or CU” are convincing neither rejoiners nor Brexiters and are coming over either as lobotomized Stepford Wives or insincere party apparatchiks.
They will only be persuaded to address the elephant in the room when they are convinced of the urgent economic necessity and that it is their political interests to do so.
4 electoral changes need to be promoted that would help ensure a positive future EU referendum result and put to lay any lingering fears from the EU that a future single party UK government could opt for Brexit again:
- PR, preferably a system close to the German model, which is strongly proportional but maintains constituency representation, it also involves a minimum 4% threshold that, in the case of the UK, could be applied in each of the 4 nations.
- COMPULSORY VOTING as in Australia or Belgium to ensure a high turnout, especially among young voters.
- REDUCE THE MINIMUM VOTING AGE TO 16 (as in Brazil and Scotland) to maximise the youth vote. A related campaign could be the promotion of political and civic education in schools.
- ENFRANCHISE ALL EU CITIZENS LEGALLY RESIDENT IN THE UK. Currently citizens from Ireland, Malta and Cyprus (3 EU members) are able to vote in UK elections together with residents from many Commonwealth countries; many of these are only in the UK on temporary work visas.
Seven years after the referendum here is still a worrying lack of knowledge and understanding about how the EU works. Poor knowledge of the EU is common in all age groups and among those who voted both leave and remain in 2016. In contrast, in most EU countries a study of the history and institutions of the EU is a compulsory part of a broad school curriculum.
Many people, including politicians, will speak confidently about the pros and cons of the single market and customs union but would be hard pressed to explain the differences between these two entities.
If there is eventually a rejoin referendum, there will need to be a much better informed electorate. Paul produced 432 benefits of EU membership in the book Reboot Britain.
About Paul Cawthorne
Paul Cawthorne graduated from the London School of Economics in 1982. In 1989 he left Thatcherland to become a poll tax exile. Over the last 30 years he has worked as a teacher of history, geography, economics and business management in national and international schools in France, Italy and Switzerland. He is currently living and working near Varese in the north of Italy and impatiently waiting to become an Italian (and EU) citizen. Paul is married with two grown-up children.
Editor’s note: Other viewpoints are available on joining anew, such as Gina Miller’s all or nothing view. Join us at her launch event on Monday 10 July in London.